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The Noise Behind Closed Doors

"One thing that has struck us all about this pandemic is just how quiet it is. You think of a disaster of this magnitude like it's some sort of action movie. But this has been largely silent. Yet, you know that people have lives in their houses (...) and there is a lot going on, a lot of inner noise being made." I heard this quote by Daniel Jones on a podcast the other day and I could not agree more with him. I have been thinking a lot recently about the huge contrast between the silent streets outside and the noises in our homes. Growing up in a neighborhood with communistic buildings I have always been mesmerized by the thoughts of the hundreds of flats and families inside of them, all living across my street. For those unfamiliar with the Eastern European architecture style of the last century, this means large and super tall apartment buildings, turning your window view into something like this:

Each night while having dinner, I would look at the little windows and fantasize about what the people behind them were doing. It's such a funny feeling, realizing that you are just a tiny person in a giant building full of other tiny people doing their own things. From the outside, everything looks the same; still and gray. But, in each small box, there is a living creature possibly writing a song, or laughing with friends, maybe falling in love for the first time or going through a bad break up...

When I grew up, I became so invested in my own busy life that I rarely had the time to think about the people behind the windows. As I moved to the Netherlands, my neighborhood philosophy became completely invalid. Firstly, the buildings here are significantly smaller and shorter so there weren't that many people whose lives I could fantasize about over dinner. Another major difference was that most of the houses have their windows almost lying on the sidewalk, wide and open to anyone who walks by and cares to take a look. There was no need to guess what the neighbors are doing anymore, because you already know. However, this worldwide pandemic revived my childhood perspective on things. Maybe because I also came back home and reunited with the view of the small grey boxes. Walking around the empty streets of my neighborhood, I couldn't help but think about what the people behind these closed doors and windows are doing. It is so empty and quiet everywhere, but is it quiet in their homes as well? As the whole world went into isolation, country by country,  I realized that we are all having more or less the same experience of having to spend our days inside. No matter what our buildings look like, we are all staying safe behind our closed doors, making it seem as if nothing is happening and everyone is hiding in silence.

But this is not exactly the case.

There are still so many different noises everywhere. Sometimes you can hear music coming from people's homes. Some are learning musical instruments, others rediscovering their old favourite bands. Occasionally, you can hear a couple fighting. Families are all staying home together for the first time in years maybe, having to learn how to speak and listen to each other again. In fact, we are all forced to improve our communication skills. Maintaining a deep conversation is not that easy when you have to constantly fix your microphone or shout from six feet apart. And yet, we somehow make it work. Words held back for ages are finally being said out loud. Phones are ringing more than ever and new connections are being made. Neighbors are chatting from their balconies and friends are finally finding the time to have a meaningful talk, like in the good old times.

However, I am most interested in what is happening behind one particular group of doors. Those of the people who are living on their own. The ones who were forced to spend a month of two in complete solitude. Is it quiet inside their homes as it is outside? I guess the answer is still not. The truth is that even if the whole world shuts down and covers itself in silence, we are all still left with the noise inside our heads. And facing this noise is probably the biggest challenge of the current times. Distancing yourself from everyone else simultaneously brings you closer to yourself. It is as if you have to move out of the outside world and into your own little space - a change which is not always so pleasant.

When this self-isolation first started for me, I fully embraced the idea of staying home and minding my own business. I thought that I will finally have some peace and quiet to focus on myself and what is important to me. I thought that staying in, away from the noisy consumer society will be liberating and refreshing. To be honest, it is - but it is also so damn difficult. I realized that the outside noise was our escape from the sound of our own thoughts, a way to resist settling in ourselves. Now, the silence forces us to finally hear our inner voices which are not always calm nor polite. Sometimes they are screaming in fear, or panicking or coming up with story thoughts. Perhaps the hardest of all moments is when they are telling the truths we have been so diligently avoiding. Almost three months in, I am still learning to listen to this voice instead of trying to avoid it. Sometimes my home seems to quiet for my liking. On other days, it is not quiet enough and I get annoyed by the smallest noise my family makes.

I still cannot decide whether I miss the outside noise and whether having the opportunity to distract ourselves from our own thoughts is healthy. One thing I know for sure is that it certainly is not as quiet behind those closed doors as it seems.

This article was written by Krisi. To stay updated her and the rest of the Cappuccino team,  have a look at our Instagram and Youtube channel for new content.


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